Many of today’s environmental issues are the result of thousands of years of chemicals released into the environment, beginning with the early production of iron, of which traces can still be found. The need to focus heavily on human exposure to these harmful chemicals became evident in the 60s, after emissions generated from industrial factories had begun to take a visible toll. During that time, Environmental Exposure Science was created as way to understand and prevent the effects of prolonged exposure to harmful elements. It’s studies can be useful in understanding workplace dangers and also in preventing diseases, such as asthma, autism, and lung cancer, in which environmental hazards are believed to play a significant role.
What is Environmental Exposure Science?
Environmental Exposure Science studies the relationships various organisms share with substances found in their surrounding ecosystem, in particular, the adverse effects of environmental toxins on the human population. By understanding the extent of damage caused by these agents, scientists can develop more effective ways to prevent them. Research, over the past several decades, has taken significant steps toward predicting the harmful effects of industrial emissions. Recent studies have allowed scientists to evaluate people and their daily activities, including where they go and how much time they spend at each destination, in order to understand where pollutants pose the greatest threat.
Exposure assessment is a process used, in environmental science, to help researchers understand the rate at which damage occurs after exposure to contaminates. It involves the study of various paths agents follow to bodily organs, where they begin their devastating effects. Toxins are commonly known to be ingested by way of contaminated food and liquids, inhaled, or transferred through direct contact with the skin. Once toxins have entered the body they can be observed using one of two methods. Using a receptor-based approach, scientist retrace the subject’s steps to the source of the chemical, or a direct approach is taken which calls for an analysis of toxic doses received by the host.
Interest in hazardous exposure in work environments can be traced back to the 18th century, long before regulations governed safety practices of industrial factories. Pollution from coal, used in operating heavy machinery, and high concentrations of mercury were prevalent during that time. It wasn’t until the 1950s that researchers began to examine the potentially unwanted effects of water and airborne chemicals and the 1970s, after the birth of OSHA, that companies were forced to consider how operations impact the health and safety of their employees.
The study of Environmental Exposure Science can have varying focuses and its real-life applications can take a number of forms. College graduates can work in health and safety management positions, research and analysis, or a long list of other prevention-oriented careers. It is generally the task of environmental science-related professionals to promote public awareness. Ultimately, the hope of Environmental Exposure Science is to inspire a sense of shared responsibility and accountability among large manufacturers, who hold the power to make a positive global impact.